Calif. to vote on ballot initiative to put condoms in all adult films

LOS ANGELES If voters give their OK, pornographic film aficionados could be seeing a new movie prop — the condom — making an appearance in every sex scene of every Triple-X-rated feature made in California.

The requirement is at the heart of Proposition 60, the so-called Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act, placed on the Nov. 8 ballot by voter-signed petitions.

Those in the porn industry, including many actors themselves, vehemently oppose it as an unneeded overreach they say wouldn’t improve worker safety but would drive their multibillion-dollar business out of California. The measure also includes several other provisions aimed at protecting the health of porn performers.

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Proposition 60’s chief proponent, the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, says it would simply extend the same kind of protection to sex workers as the state already grants hospital employees and others in professions that expose them to infectious diseases.

“The young people who are needed to make these films, they are regarded as disposable, and I don’t believe that any life is expendable,” said AHF founder and president Michael Weinstein, whose organization has pumped nearly $2.9 million into its effort to pass the measure. Opponents have raised about $350,000.

AHF previously campaigned successfully for a condoms-in-porn ballot measure that Los Angeles County voters passed in 2012. Earlier this year the organization pressed the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health to fine porn actor James Deen’s production company nearly $78,000 for making a film in LA County without condoms.

That prompted Weinstein to scoff at the industry’s threat to leave California, but filmmakers insist they will have no other choice.

“We would 100 percent stop,” said Steven Hirsch, co-founder and co-CEO of Vivid Entertainment, one of the industry’s largest porn producers. “We and the entire industry would 100 percent stop producing movies in the state of California, and any revenue that goes along with that the state would lose.”

California’s legislative analyst and finance director estimate Proposition 60 could cost the state millions of dollars annually in lost revenue, but adds that some of that could be recouped by fees it would impose on pornographers and by reduced health care costs.

After the LA County measure passed in 2012, Hirsch said his company and others moved their film shoots to other parts of the state. This time, with the stakes much higher, he said they would simply have to go elsewhere, adding that states like Florida and Nevada are possible candidates.

In addition to requiring condoms in all scenes involving sexual intercourse, Proposition 60 would:

— Require porn producers be licensed by the state and assess fines ranging from $1,000 to $70,000 for various violations.

— Require producers to pay for vaccinations, tests and monitoring of sexually transmitted diseases, something the actors themselves now pay for under an industry requirement they be tested every 14 days.

— Hold all individuals with a financial interest in a porn film liable for violations.

— Allow any witness to a violation to sue a filmmaker if state officials don’t act promptly on their complaint.

It’s those last two requirements that porn actress Chanel Preston says worry her most.

The industry, battered by the rise of free internet porn, has seen its revenues decline in recent years from as much as $10 billion to about $5 billion, says Mark Kernes, senior editor of Adult Video News.

That decline has prompted many actors to produce and distribute their own films, said Preston, who chairs the industry’s Adult Performer Advocacy Committee. She believes Proposition 60 would leave them liable to steep fines and lawsuits.

Preston has made more than 450 films since 2011, and although she says she believes in condoms for anyone who wants to use one, she doesn’t believe they would have kept her as safe as the industry’s 14-day testing requirement has.

Condoms are difficult to use during porn shoots that can last for hours, she said, and often result in chafing and cuts that expose actresses to the infections they’re supposed to prevent.

“People look at condoms like they’re this gold standard, and for the general public, yes, they are, because you don’t know the status of your partner all the time,” she said. “But in our industry we do.”